Barcelona restored their three-point lead at the top of La Liga with a stunning 6-1 victory over Celta Vigo that saw Lionel Messi provide Luis Suarez with his hat-trick rather than score from the spot to reach a personal milestone.
Having seen Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid win earlier in the weekend, Barca could ill-afford a slip-up against a Celta side who won the reverse fixture 4-1 at Balaidos in September.
And Messi – returning to action after medical tests on a kidney problem this week – was in inspired form as he got the hosts off the mark with a beautifully measured free-kick before John Guidetti levelled from the spot.
Messi and Suarez combined wonderfully for Barca’s second prior to Suarez completing his brace, which came about after clever play from Messi to set up Neymar’s assist.
When Messi was fouled for an 81st-minute penalty, all eyes were on the Argentina star as he looked set to register his 300th La Liga goal.
However, he elected to lay the ball off for Suarez’s hat-trick, with Ivan Rakitic’s clever lob and Neymar’s calm finish capping a stunning period of attacking football from Luis Enrique’s men, who moved clear at the top in style.
Despite a host of star names returning after being rested for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, Barca were flat early on against a Celta side missing suspended strikers Iago Aspas and Fabian Orellana as well as the injured Nolito.
Celta were handed an early scare when Messi curled a free-kick marginally wide 11 minutes in while Neymar was denied from point blank by Sergio as Barca grew into the game.
Sergio’s opposite number Claudio Bravo got down smartly to his left to save Carlos Plana’s effort but the former Barca man then conceded the free-kick that led to Messi’s opener.
After a foul on Suarez, Messi sent his superb dead-ball effort into the top right-hand corner beyond a helpless Sergio.
However, Alba clumsily clipped Guidetti in the area seven minutes before half-time, allowing the Sweden international to restore parity with an emphatic equaliser down to Bravo’s right.
Messi almost restored Barca’s lead within two minutes of the restart when he angled an effort onto the post following an impressive virtuoso run and pass from Neymar.
The hosts were back in front through Suarez thanks to a trademark moment of Barca brilliance, the Uruguayan controlling Messi’s perfect chipped pass and slotting home on the half-volley.
Having ended a spirited Celta stand, Barca’s attacking trident all had a hand in the third goal – Messi finding Neymar, whose effort from a difficult angle rolled toward the line before being stabbed home by Suarez.
But Messi wowed the Camp Nou once more when, having been brought down by Jonny, he laid his penalty off for Suarez to finish amid a remarkable final half-hour that saw Rakitic join the party with a fine lobbed finish.
A deserved goal for Neymar in the 90th minute capped a hugely impressive attacking display from the champions, who made it six successive league wins in style against a shellshocked Celta.
Key Opta stats:
-Luis Suarez has scored 12 goals in his last five games for Barcelona at Camp Nou (all competitions).
-Lionel Messi has scored more direct free-kick goals than any other La Liga player this season (five, all competitions).
-Luis Suarez was involved in five of Barcelona’s six goals in this league game against Celta.
-Celta Vigo have scored more goals against Barcelona under Luis Enrique than any other team in La Liga (six goals in four meetings).
-Lionel Messi has scored five direct free-kick goals this season, more than in any other single campaign for Barcelona (all competitions).
-Barcelona have conceded their first penalty in La Liga this season.
-Lionel Messi has scored his 299th goal in La Liga.
-John Guidetti is the first player to score a penalty goal against Barcelona in La Liga since Alberto Bueno in March 2015.
-Barcelona have hit the woodwork 19 times in La Liga this season, at least six more than any other side.
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